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Dickerson happy to be back in Padres' lineup

Following back injury, outfielder ready to battle for starting spot
MLB.com @AJCassavell

PHOENIX -- In baseball terms, Alex Dickerson hardly missed any time at all.

The Padres left fielder was held out for the first two weeks of Cactus League play because of a stiff lower back. But he returned Saturday against the Brewers and has ample time to get ready for the start of the regular season.

PHOENIX -- In baseball terms, Alex Dickerson hardly missed any time at all.

The Padres left fielder was held out for the first two weeks of Cactus League play because of a stiff lower back. But he returned Saturday against the Brewers and has ample time to get ready for the start of the regular season.

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"It feels like an eternity, though," Dickerson was quick to point out. "You're seeing everybody else get their year started, and you're kind of hanging back. But in the long run, you look back and are happy you got it out of the way early and can move on from there."

Dickerson, who went 1-for-2 with a walk in Saturday's 5-3 loss to Milwaukee, sustained his injury during camp's opening weekend while running on a soggy Padres practice field. In the three weeks since, he spent a good chunk of time trying to persuade the Padres to turn him loose.

Given the timing of the injury, they weren't about to rush their potential starting left fielder back into action in early March. But manager Andy Green didn't mind Dickerson's impatience.

Video: Andy Green on Dickerson, competition

"He wants to play," Green said with a smile. "Alex Dickerson does not want to go back to [Triple-A] El Paso, and he does not want to sit on the bench. That's exactly the attitude I want to see in every one of our guys. He wants to impact this club."

Dickerson served as the designated hitter Saturday against the Brewers. Eventually he'll see time in left field, a position he's looking to anchor for San Diego.

It's hard to envision a scenario -- other than injury -- in which Dickerson wouldn't break camp with the big league club. But three outfield spots likely will be split among four players this season. And in that regard, Dickerson is competing for playing time.

"His at-bats were as professional as anyone else on our team [last year]," Green said. "He consistently puts together good at-bats. His outfield play, when healthy, is solid. I look at Alex as a guy right in the mix to get 400 to 500 at-bats this year."

In 84 games as a rookie, Dickerson batted .257/.333/.455 with 10 homers. He raked in July (.303/.343/.621, five dingers), but struggled after sustaining a hip injury from a warning-track collision with Travis Jankowski on July 29.

Defensively, Dickerson took major strides in 2016. Where he was once a liability, checking in as a league-average defender in left field, at least in terms of DRS (defensive runs saved). He feels as though he's still improving.

For now, however, Dickerson is happy to contribute in any capacity -- even as a designated hitter in a mid-March contest in Maryvale.

"It's a good feeling [too see your name back in the lineup]," Dickerson said. "It's back to feeling normal. This is just like Day One of Spring Training for me."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Alex Dickerson